'Internet addiction' linked to depression (sigh)

These studies always drive me to despair.

According to a BBC report: "There is a strong link between heavy Internet use and depression, UK psychologists have said. The study, reported in the journal Psychopathology, found 1.2% of people surveyed were 'Internet addicts,' and many of these were depressed."

And I'll bet a lot of them drink too much and can recite every flavor of Ben & Jerry's.

Personally, I don't believe in Internet addiction any more than I do the "addiction" that allegedly afflicts Tiger Woods.

Call these matters compulsions, call them anti-social behavior, call them bad habits, but don't lump them in with smoking, alcoholism and other drug addictions.

As was chronicled recently by my Network World colleague Jeff Caruso, the Internet -- in this case Facebook and Twitter, specifically -- has been accused of causing all manner of medical and psychological harm, including but not limited to brain damage, cancer, teenage suicide … even rickets.

And it's more than a matter of semantics, too. Once these "addictions" become labeled as such they lend credence to the belief that the activities themselves are somehow harmful; online gambling being a primary example that frosts my butt.

Moreover, depression is serious business and "linking" it to something as nebulous as "Internet addiction" trivializes a major illness.

Much of this is media driven, of course, as the BBC story says of the researchers in this case: "The Leeds University team stressed they could not say one necessarily caused the other, and that most Internet users did not suffer mental health problems."

Well that's a relief.

Yet we get this scare quote, too, from one of the researchers: "While many of us use the Internet to pay bills, shop and send e-mails, there is a small subset of the population who find it hard to control how much time they spend online, to the point where it interferes with their daily activities."

Is there any part of that sentence that anyone finds the least bit surprising?

"Islam is" auto-fill is back on Google search

Of all the controversies and kerfuffles involving Google of late, none has been more of a head-scratcher than the allegation that the search giant was protecting Islamic sensibilities by self-censoring its auto-fill function.

Dating back to at least early January, a search on the phrase "Islam is" would produce no auto-fill suggestions, while the same search on other religions would return the expected list of popular search topics … and sometimes vulgar ones. The gist of the accusation against Google was that it was sparing itself the wrath such vulgar ones might produce.

Google claimed it was merely a software bug they would fix …. and, while it took weeks longer than critics could abide, the company has done so. Type "Islam is" into Google and you should get a list of popular searches, most disparaging, and one vulgar.

Not everyone buys the bug-fix explanation, but I'm happy to give them the benefit of the doubt.

A final note, however: Listed at No. 9 among the newly restored auto-fill options for "Islam is" is … "Islam is Google." Make of that what you will.

No need to protect my sensibilities. The address is buzz@nww.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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